I am taking a break from the daily blog until after Thanksgiving. But come back daily for an excerpt from my book “Bring’em Back Alive”. This section is from a chapter called Feud for Thought. We covered numbers 3 & 4 yesterday.
One of the reviews of Bad Christians described me as “flippant.” To be honest I would have preferred “witty” or “erudite.” Flippant! But the fact is that I believe a sense of humor is one of God’s gifts to help get us to the finish line of life. “Humor is a rubber sword,” observed Mary Hirsch. “It allows you to make a point without drawing blood.”
An examination of the life of Jesus would indicate that He possessed a sense of humor. God’s writers did not set out to author a joke book, so you won’t find the phrase “a Sadducee, a Pharisee and a Roman walk into a bar” anywhere in the Bible. Still, you find glimpses of humor in the words of Jesus. For example, consider this exchange when the disciples came running up and asked Jesus the following question.
“Did you know how upset the Pharisees were when they heard what you said?” Matthew (15:12)
I can see them looking at Jesus and waiting to hear Him say something like, “Really? I had better go get that straightened out. Those Pharisees are some important guys.” I expect the Lord’s answer first stunned and then amused them.
“Forget them. They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch.” (Matthew 15:14)
You will also note that Jesus was an oft-invited guest at weddings and banquets. His appearances, in fact, drew the ire of the Pharisees. Think about it. If Jesus was a holier-than-thou, uptight, religious, suck-the-air-out-of-the-room sourpuss, would you want Him at your wedding party? Jesus must have been able to laugh and enjoy the common fellowship of others, and he was obviously welcome and desired at the festivities. Let’s join Jesus at Levi’s dinner party, which included some unsavory people, and see what happened:
Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. The Pharisees and their religion scholars came to his disciples greatly offended. “What is he doing eating and drinking with crooks and ‘sinners’?” Jesus heard about it and spoke up, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.” They asked him, “John’s disciples are well-known for keeping fasts and saying prayers. Also the Pharisees. But you seem to spend most of your time at parties. Why?” Jesus said, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but this isn’t the time. As long as the bride and groom are with you, you have a good time. (Luke 5:29-34)
At the risk of being flippant again, clearly Jesus knew how to party (in the good sense of the word). He knew how to interact warmly with others and connect with those around Him, no matter how unlike Him they might be.
The disciples that Jesus assembled were a fascinating blend of common laborers and professional types. Imagine today if Christ went to the local pier to recruit some fishermen, dropped by the IRS to pick up a follower, then went over to the medical clinic, and so on. I would imagine this would be (at least initially) a fairly coarse group. I don’t suspect that the men dropped the earthy sense of humor they likely possessed when they dropped their nets to follow Jesus. Part of any healthy and dynamic group relationship is having fun together. I believe that there were times when Jesus and the twelve told jokes and fish stories.
A lack of humor in the church apparently this has been a problem for a while now. Teresa of Avila prayed this simple prayer in 1582, “From somber, serious, sullen saints, save us, O Lord.” Amen, and amen.
There you have my little battle plan for unity: Remember that Christ died for everyone and not just your little Holy Huddle. If it is not heresy it may not matter much. Use your mouth for blessing. Love your neighbor as yourself, and have a sense of humor.